By Bert Jones, USGTF Member, Loomis, California
Don’t even say the word, as you might get infected. If you do say the word, say it in a hushedtoned in a quiet place. The yips are deadly and candestroy even the best game of golf.
Don’t feel bad. Even professional golfers have theyips. Professional golfers seriously afflicted by the yipshave included Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer(thus the long putter), Ben Hogan (maybe it was thecar accident), Harry Vardon, Sam Snead (rememberthe croquet-styled stance outlawed by the USGA?),Ian Baker-Finch and Keegan Bradley, who missed asix-inch putt in the final round of the 2013 HP ByronNelson Championship due to the condition (althoughhe may also have been suffering from strabismus, amisalignment of the eyes).
The Mayo Clinic found that 33 to 48 percentof all serious golfers have experienced the yips. Itwas Tommy Armour who coined the term; thanks,Tommy. Over the years, others referred to it as thejerks, the waggles, the shakes, and even whiskey fin-gers. I like the latter term the best – don’t you? It’spainful to watch, and I have to turn my head.
It is believed that the yips are caused by focaldystonia, whereby the brain sends electrical signals tothe muscles in an incorrect sequence. There are twokinds of yips, rotational and acceleration. Most of uscould figure out the latter!
As teaching professionals, we must think aboutproper diagnosis of the problem and determinewhich type of yip the student has. Video and a prod-uct called Blast Motion are great ways to help youdetermine what the heck is going on. When using video, you need to place your iPhone at ground level(go to www.EyeLine.com and take a look at slow-motion as a useful tool). Your iPhone has a slow-motion button and can be operated by a Bluetoothremote. I use my iWatch remote function to controlmy iPhone. Video using a bi-colored ball can easilypick up on acceleration yips. Blast Motion is anotherdevice that you place in the butt end of the putter.Using an app on your iPad, it produces some excel-lent metrics to diagnose rotational yips. Students lovethe quick and accurate feedback.
Now, let’s talk about a cure. For those that wantto flip their right hand at impact (assuming aright-handed golfer), I suggest a grip change suchas a pencil, claw, or left-hand-low grip. Placing aSharpie on the wrist and taping it, or using a rubberband, is a cheap way to help the student feel the flip.Acceleration yips are a programmed response, and weneed to create new neural pathways to create change. Try providing a series of balls of different kinds –ping-pong, tennis ball, balls of steel, etc. Have thestudent putt these balls in a series, followed by a realgolf ball (repeat the drill over and over again). The drill is designed to break the cycle of anticipation.Eyeline Golf also has a product called the Putting Pen-dulum to help provide proper sensation and rhythm.
Students and teachers need to understand thatthe rotational yips are an over-rotation of the putterthat leaves the putting plane. It is hard to believe, butevery stroke has arc – even the straight-back-straightputting stroke. A simple fix is the use of the PuttingRail from eyeline.com as a means to help the studentfeel and stay on plane.
Lastly, I offer two other ideas for your consid-eration. The first is placing a large ball between thewrists or forearms to help the student stay connected.The last drill is the two-ball drill, whereby the studenttries to putt two balls at the same time which areplaced side-by-side. Both drills help the student withover- or under-rotation.
No more three-putts, and don’t forget to analyzetheir equipment!